DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Five Assistants That Miranda Priestly Never Sleeps With
(And One That She Does)
1. Allison Stuart (1988)
"You're too young for this job," is the first thing Irv says when they meet.
He's right, of course. Miranda may be wearing couture and just the right amount of perfume, she may be driven and ruthless and very, very good her job, but the fact is she's thirty-three and younger than half the staff at Runway. She knows this. She knew this before stepping into the interview.
She doesn't much care.
Miranda looks at Irv. Looks at the glasses slipping down his nose and the shoulder-pads and the suit that is too big for him. She's done her research; she knows that the last four chairmen have all had the name Ravitz, knows that he only got this position because of Daddy. She crosses her legs.
"And you're too young for yours."
"Hmm," Irv says, scratching his chin. He gives her a hard look. "Well, one thing's for sure, you're going to have to start wearing a lot more makeup."
"Don't tell me how to do my job," she huffs and stands to shake his hand, and just like that she's hired.
He just took over Elias-Clarke and she just took over its flagship magazine and together their ages add up to sixty-eight. "You and me, we're a senior citizen," Irv says, and Miranda smiles over gritted teeth. Before her first official day of work, she insists upon replacing everyone over forty ("Don't talk to me about lawsuits just do it!") and so when she walks into the building it's alongside twenty new staff members. They've lost most of publishing and half of makeup. Miranda rides the elevator all the way up to her new office and sits in her chair, surrounded by boxes.
"I'm going to need an assistant," she says.
They hold interviews the next morning. Everyone mulls around and watches the candidates go in and out of Miranda's office. It's only their second day on the job, the next issue isn't due out for two months, and half of them are young enough that it's their first time inside a real publishing office. They haven't quite figured out what they're supposed to be doing. Which is all right, Miranda thinks, for now. She hasn't bothered to make them afraid of her yet they're still mostly in awe, which works about just as well.
After the fourth candidate comes and goes (an absolute disaster couldn't even string a sentence together), Miranda stalks out of her office and pours herself a glass of water. They're drinking out of paper cups. The real ones are somewhere, hidden in deep boxes, but no one can bring themselves to look.
They're all staring at her, of course, a cluster of impeccably-dressed sheep. Miranda sighs. She's beginning to regret insisting everyone be quite so young she feels a bit like a kindergarten teacher. Surely hiring at least one forty-year-old wouldn't have been the end of the world.
"Don't be too selective," one of them Nigel, she thinks says to her. "After all, all she really has to be able to do is run for coffee."
Miranda raises an eyebrow at him over the rim of her paper cup. He shoves his hands into his pockets. Another second, Miranda thinks, and he'll be scuffing his shoe along the floor. She sighs. Yes, they definitely could have done with a forty-year-old.
The next interviewee walks in. Miranda surveys her flock, and is disappointed some of their postures reflect confidence. Some even have their shoulders back. This won't do at all; maybe she'll have to scare them a bit earlier then planned.
She turns to Nigel and asks, "Do you have a watch?"
He nods, confused, but when she holds out her hand and raises both eyebrows he jumps to action, unclipping it from his wrist. "Hold this," she says, and hands him her paper cup.
"What's your name?" Miranda asks interviewee-number-five. (And, oh, they're all listening now she doesn't even have to project her voice.)
"Allison," says the girl, who is pretty in an anxious sort of way.
"Allison," Miranda smiles. Angles her head to make sure everyone can see it. "If you can run to Starbucks and bring back," she does a quick head-count, "eleven coffees in under five minutes, you've got the job."
The girl blinks at her.
Miranda consults Nigel's watch. "Starting now."
To her credit, Allison only waits a second before taking off at a full run. After the doors swing shut behind her there is complete silence for a full fifty seconds (Miranda should know she counts them by on the watch). Then one of the makeup girls speaks.
"She's taking the stairs," the girl says, watching Allison's progress through the glass doors. She cants a hip, flicks her hair. "Interesting tactical decision."
They all burst out into laughter then, but it's nervous. Miranda can tell they're watching her out of the corners of their eyes. She doesn't smile, and they lapse into an uneasy silence.
Still looking at the watch, Miranda boosts herself up onto one of the two (unattended) assistants' desks and crosses her legs.
"Well," she says, "Isn't this fun?"
Nigel stares at her and she can tell from his face that he's wondering if she's going to rocket them to the top or fuck them all over.
(He does not, of course, anticipate that she will do both.)
Surprisingly, the girl makes it back with the coffee in time, with exactly twenty-four seconds to spare. She puts her hands on her knees and pants while they sip it. She is very thin; Miranda can see her shoulder blades poking through her shirt when she's bent like that. Miranda briefly wonders if she should lie about the time, tell the girl, sorry, no, you weren't fast enough.
But she needs an assistant.
"Congratulations, Allison," says Miranda, "you're hired."
2. Rachel Zeiman (1989)
Of course, one of the problems that comes with laying off the majority of your experienced staff is that you've laid off the majority of your experienced staff. Paris Fashion Week rolls around and none of them have any real idea of what they're doing.
"I sincerely hope you have a plan," Irv tells Miranda in the limo. Her newest assistant sits between them, pretending not to listen.
Miranda closes her eyes. Wishes for that forty-year-old.
"If I did," she says, staring out the window, "I certainly wouldn't tell you."
When they get to the hotel they are surrounded by a whirl of activity, designers and photographers and other magazines checking in. They are very noticeably the youngest group in the room.
"My God," breathes Irv, "no one's going to be able to tell you apart from your subordinates."
"Calm down," Miranda sniffs impatiently. "If the need arises, we can always tape a sign to my forehead."
Once Irv is safely shut away in his hotel room, Miranda calls the rest of them to an informal meeting in hers. They file in and assemble themselves haphazardly over the furniture. There isn't enough room, of course, so some of them sit on the floor and Miranda pinches the bridge of her nose some even fold their legs.
"We are, of course," she begins once they're all settled, "in a rather unfortunate position. Everyone knows sales were sliding during those last few months before the takeover. And even" she pauses and looks around the room. "Even if we have managed to get them back on the upswing, the fact remains that no one," she smiles wryly, "has ever heard of me. Or any of you, for that matter."
She's had time to make them plenty afraid of her by now, and they're all hanging on her every word. She never has to raise her voice anymore, or even project it. She doesn't think she will ever have to again.
"They aren't going to want to talk to us," she informs them, "or sell us their collections. We do not even have an invitation to the Christian Lacroix showing. Really, we have absolutely nothing going for us, except for the fact," she bites her lip, "Except for the fact that we are all relatively young."
Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Nigel exchange a glance with the new assistant.
Miranda braces herself and continues: "So you see, ladies and gentlemen, the success of this venture rests solely on your ability to be charming."
The art director raises a tentative hand. "Are you suggesting that we, er, flirt our way in?"
Miranda raises an eyebrow. "Do you have a better idea?"
Of course no one does.
"So, this is the plan, then?" asks Nigel on their way to the first catwalk.
"Yes," she answers, and he's quick, this one he keeps his face perfectly blank.
"Right," says Nigel, squaring his shoulders. "Right."
Miranda is mildly successful during the first day and if she is, in fact, wearing more makeup than normal, Irv will never know but not quite as successful as she'd hoped. She curses herself for forgetting that red hair isn't nearly as much of a novelty here. (Back home, that had always been her shoe-in one flip was normally all it took).
The real problem is that she has no one to make introductions for her. Instead, she's forced to waltz right up to people, hand extended, saying "Miranda Priestly, editor-and-chief of Runway, nice to meet you." It's the sort of thing that's considered bold as brass in this crowd, but here her age works to her advantage she's just young enough to get away with it. If she tilts her head and smiles, most anything is forgiven.
Some of them talk to her and some of them don't and some of them offer more than just talking. She smiles and politely declines; so politely, in fact, that some of them ask twice. She is very, very careful.
She can spot the assistants from miles away young and pretty and carrying notepads. When they aren't furiously scribbling they're huddled together in clumps, no doubt comparing bosses or shoes or some other such frivolous thing. Still, they're perilously close to her age and Miranda gives them a wide berth.
Her own assistant has been set loose for the night. Ostensibly to do her own networking, but also because she is just slightly taller than Miranda. And, should they have been standing side by side for some of these introductions, Miranda worries she might've needed that sign after all.
They've been told to report back to her if they come up with anything useful, but it's twelve o'clock and Miranda's back in her hotel room before she finally hears anything. They don't knock right away, choosing instead to hover outside and talk amongst themselves. But Miranda has had quite enough for the evening, thank you very much, and she wrenches the door open.
"Unless you are all considering a career change to professional loitering that I am as of yet unaware of, I find no reason for you to" She catches sight of her assistant. "Rachel, what on earth happened to you?"
"You do not want to know," says Rachel. She is enunciating very carefully. Miranda counts at least four runs in her stocking. Nigel stands beside her, grinning. Miranda opens her mouth, prepared to fire the pair of them (although, really, she could have sworn Nigel wasbut then why is Rachel's hairand her dress) but Rachel cuts her off. "However," she says, "I did manage to get you an invitation to the Christian Lacroix showing."
Miranda knows her mouth is hanging open, but she can't do a thing about it. That show is so exclusive photographers aren't allowed in, and Miranda's pretty sure that receiving an invitation warrants you have at least been in the business for ten years and
"I've already told her she's a wonder," says Nigel. "And I'd suggest champagne to celebrate if I weren't so sure she'd already had enough herself."
Rachel is blinking at her blearily, lipstick worn off and mascara smudged, and Miranda already knows she's going to have to give this girl a raise.
3. Dominique Breton (1993)
"Marry me," David says. They're eating dry cereal in his apartment because he forgot to buy milk (again). Miranda's driver is due to pick her up in less than two minutes.
She looks at him. He's licking his spoon and not meeting her eyes.
She can't sort them out, the pros and cons. She needs a pen and paper and time to write it all down, but she doesn't think he'll take very kindly to her getting up right now.
"Very well," Miranda says carefully. "But if you lick that spoon and stick it to your nose, I may have to reconsider."
She's in a meeting for most of the morning, during which David calls her seven times.
"Did it just occur to you to tell me this now, Dominique, instead of, oh, I don't know, when he called."
"But Miranda," Dominique squeaks, "you were with Donatella, and you always say not to disturb"
"I don't care, just get him on the phone."
Dominique does so, and Miranda's hands aren't shaking as the call dials through. They aren't.
"David," she says, cutting off his hello, "what, exactly, is so important that you're calling me at work?" And she is thinking, oh, please let it be that someone has died. Please let it be his mother, or mine, or that Wall Street has crashed. Please don't let it be that he's decided he's made a
(There is a five second pause along the line, for which she will never forgive him. Seven years later, in a divorce settlement where she takes everything, Miranda will remember that pause, and she won't feel guilty. Not at all.)
"We've got to tell our parents," David says in a rush. "I've just realized that. And my mom's going to want a huge wedding, I just know she is, with a rabbi and a cake and a white dress and Can you even wear white now? I mean, the second time? Does that sort of thing matter, or"
Miranda lets him talk to himself for a full minute while she gets her breath back.
Dominique cowers when Miranda sweeps out of her office. The second assistant (because Miranda has two now, and that's how you know when you've made it) ducks her head behind the computer monitor.
"Dominique," Miranda says, "call Pierre. I need him to design a wedding dress."
She is halfway back into her office before she hears Dominique's soft "congratulations".
4. Sabrina Baskaran (1996)
"You're pregnant," says Irv after the board meeting.
"No," Miranda deadpans, "I'm carrying a pillow around under my blouse. Helps the posture."
"You're forty years old and, by all accounts," Irv hisses, "a horrible and conniving bitch. I thought we were past this sort of danger. And now you're telling me, this late in the game, that I'm going to lose you to the frickin' joys of motherhood?"
"'Past this sort of danger'?" Miranda mimics. "Tell me, Irv do you actually keep tabs on the status of your female employees' fertility? At what age do you consider us out of the woods? Thirty-seven? Thirty-nine?"
"Oh, for god's sakes." Irv rolls his eyes. "How far along are you?"
"Three months." Miranda flashes him a vindicated smile. "It's twins."
"Don't tell me," moans Irv, walking out of the office. "I don't want to know."
Miranda's assistant is just clearing out of the elevator when Miranda catches her arm. "Ride with me, Sabrina," she says, and nods towards her midsection. Because, really, that's the last thing she needs; to be stuck in an elevator alone and Not that this girl looks like she'd be much help. She's gaping at Miranda like a fish.
"Oh. Right. Of course." Sabrina tucks herself into a corner. She's only been working here a month, and obviously believes Miranda's temperament to be the result of pregnancy hormones. Miranda knows that her colleagues are dearly hoping she'll last long enough to have this precious illusion shattered.
Miranda doesn't intend to disappoint them.
Two weeks after the twins are born, Miranda comes back to work.
She fires Sabrina.
5. Emily Charlton (2004)
Stephen wants to meet her. Miranda cannot believe this.
"She is my assistant," Miranda hisses. "She exists to ferry coffee and deliver the Book. What part of this escapes you?"
"She comes to your home," Stephen insists. "Every day."
"It's not as if I go to the door to greet her and invite her in for tea and biscuits. For heaven's sake."
"She's part of your life." Stephen trails his fingers down her arm. "And I want to be involved in all aspects of your life, Miranda. I want this to be serious."
Miranda sighs. "The twins are an aspect of my life. My mother is an aspect of my life. Lint is an aspect of my life. My assistants are not. Trust me, you do not need to meet them."
"If you're sure," Stephen says. He drops his hand from her arm.
1. Andrea Sachs (2006)
She doesn't mean to do it, exactly. Not really. It's Andrea's fifth coffee run of the day, and Miranda just happens to be looking at the clock when she leaves. And when she comes back in.
"Nine minutes," she tells Andrea.
"What?" Andrea tries to blink, but her eyes stay closed too long. It's late, past her bedtime. She is so very, very young.
"Nine minutes," Miranda says impatiently. "It took you nine minutes to go to Starbucks and back."
"Sorry?" Andrea manages to look contrite and confused at the same time. She shifts uneasily in her stilettos.
It's well after eleven on a Friday. The lights have been turned off in the hallway and the custodians have long gone home. They're the only ones left in the office.
Miranda considers. There are no impressions to make, no new staff members to terrify. Andrea, certainly, is plenty afraid. Miranda can see her legs trembling from here.
(Miranda hasn't had to raise her voice since 1989.)
"If you can do it again in five," Miranda tells Andrea, "I'll give you a raise."
Andrea makes it. She takes the stairs, both there and back "interesting tactical decision," Miranda says to herself, and smiles and clocks in with thirty-two seconds to spare. She is panting when she hands Miranda the coffee, her skirt rotated several degrees west.
When Miranda reaches out to straighten it, Andrea doesn't jump. Doesn't start. Miranda can feel her ribs contracting and expanding with each steady breath. It isn't until Miranda brushes her fingertips along the skirt's seams that Andrea finally shudders, her breath tripping over itself before starting again.
"Have youhave you ever done this before?" Andrea gasps.
"No," Miranda says, and kisses her.
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